Nov 12, 2019

Homeschool Review Crew: Mattie Richardson

What do you do when your daughter loves to read, loves horses, and is not as interested in history as she ought to be? Give her Mattie Richardson's Horses in History Series! We were asked to review these four books from Author Mattie Richardson/Appaloosy Books and Abbie has been greatly enjoying them!

We were sent these four books in the mail with a very cute sticker on the package, which my daughter cut out and kept, of course. 


These books are historical fiction, each story being told from the perspective a horse who was right in the middle of the action. Although called a "series", but they are also stand-alone and you can read them in any order because they each focus on a different historical period.

These books are aimed at readers between the ages of 8 to 14. My 12 year old found them to be quick, easy reads and I was able to read each of them in a single sitting. 

Appaloosy, which was written when the author was only thirteen years old, is the story of Storm, an Appaloosa who is born into a herd owned by the Nez Perce tribe. He is present when Chief Joseph surrenders and is taken by the soldiers. He escapes and his adventures, as well as his search for freedom, begins. 

Day and Night tells the story of brother horses, Tucker and Shiloh who are Morgan horses. At the beginning of the book, they are sold to different owners and go their separate ways. Shiloh is stolen a few times and winds up in the Confederate Army with a girl named Sarah who is pretending to a be boy so she can volunteer. Tucker is also stolen and taken into the Union Army to serve with a man named Ben. They take turns telling of their experiences in the war and eventually get to their happy ending. 

Golden Sunrise is the story of the Golden Palomino mare named Cheyenne. Brought to the Mexican territory of Texas by her young owner, Jared, Cheyenne lives a happy life as a farm horse. But then the Texas Revolution begins and she must go join up as a volunteer with Jared. This story has a tragedy in it. It is about the Alamo, after all, but it does end on a high note, with hope and the victory of Texas over Santa Ana!

Dusty's Trail is the story of an American Quarter horse named Dusty. This was great story of how Dusty, a disrespectful, lazy scaredy-cat and his owner Levi joined up with the Pony Express. Not only did we learn a lot about the history of the mail, Dusty learned a lesson or two about bravery and trust. 


Each book contains vocabulary words at the front of the book, for example, Dusty's Trail has words such as "cow sense", "mochila" (the mail pack), and Pauite Indians. And a couple of the books have extra historical information at the end. 

To go along with the book, Day and Night, is an Enrichment Guide that we were sent in PDF form. This is currently the only book that has a Guide, but she is working on guides for the others. There are 8 parts to the Guide. The first 7 sections contain:
  •  Reading Comprehension questions: for example, Describe who Shiloh was stolen by?
  • Vocabulary quizzes with word banks and fill-in-the-blank sentences
  • History: more info about a topic from the story or questions
  • A Soldier's Life: more info about what it was like to be a Civil War soldier on a daily basis, for example, the steps to loading their rifles, and a link to listen to bugle calls 
  • Living History Segment: making a canteen, listening to drumming patterns, or "enjoying" hardtack or other crafts or games
  • Geography: discusses rivers important to the war, landmarks, maps and the "Anaconda Plan"
  • Horses and History: horse terms, the functions of cavalry in the war, horse personalities, a coloring page and more
  • Creating your own Stories: encourages the student to write with a short exercise and some info, for example, character development, settings, and parts of a story
  • Biography: a little info about important people in the war that may or may not have actually been in the story
We did not use the Enrichment Guide but definitely would if we were reading these books for a history supplement for school. 

We had a good time reading the books. For my daughter they were a quick, easy read in only a couple of sittings. She does not like history, but she does like horses and she definitely enjoyed these books!

We do recommend Mattie Richardson's Horses in History Series! They are a fun, delightful read and an enjoyable way to slip a little history into your horse-lover's day. My favorites were Dusty's Trail and Golden Sunrise simply because those are two of my favorite time periods in history, but they were all good. Check them out for yourself!





Book Set: Appaloosy, Dusty's Trail, Golden Sunrise & Day and Night {Mattie Richardson/Appaloosy Books Reviews}


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Oct 24, 2019

Homeschool Review Crew: Excelerate SPANISH


As a homeschool mom in a state relatively free of governmental standards for graduation, I make a lot of decisions about what my kids' high school credits will look like. One of the things I decided rather unilaterally was that all four kids' foreign language credits were going to be Spanish. Not only is is highly useful in our part of the world, but I have a high school level teacher available to teach them. 

However, I prefer to fill them as full as I can with Spanish vocabulary before I send them to formal lessons. Sort of in the way you teach your child to speak your native tongue before you teach them grammar. I spent most of the summer looking for a good but easy way to teach vocabulary to my middle schoolers this year and was finally rewarded with a review of  Excelerate SPANISH Streaming from Excelerate SPANISH.

This program is an online streaming product that you purchase month by month. It consists of teaching videos and workbooks. There are also free flashcards, games and quizzes available on Quizlet. 

We were given access to the videos, but not to the workbooks. This gave us access to two levels of lessons. Each level contains 24 lessons. The lessons vary in length, from thirty minutes, forty-five minutes, to an hour long. 

The lessons are recorded in a classroom with actual kids participating. The lessons are what I would think immersion style would look like. The instructor, Caryn Hommel, writes vocabulary words and phrases on the board, with the translation, and speaks them out loud as she does so. 



Each lesson is packed with new vocabulary... she fills up the board!


As she repeats the words and phrases she matches them with hand motions and gestures. 

Then she reviews by asking the kids to do the hand motions as she says the Spanish words. The gestures and motions are all naturally associated with the word she links them to. Sometimes she has a picture for the word instead of a gesture. This means the kids are not translating in their heads, "Parada means stop", but associate the word "parada" with the action of holding up their hand to signal "stop".  This gives them a jump start on fluency.


She covers the vocabulary multiple times in the lesson. first by teaching it, then by having the kids repeat the gestures, then by stories. She tells the stories and then has the kids act out the stories. She asks questions about the stories and the vocabulary and the kids respond orally and with gestures. She uses real life situations and speaks in complete sentences with minimum translation. 



There is a lot of language packed into each lesson, and without the workbooks, we struggled to absorb it all. So we re-watched the videos multiple times. I had my kids acting out the stories and responding along with the kids in the video. 

We have access to the videos for a year, so it is okay for us to go slowly. 

For the purposes of this review, I watched a few lessons of level 2 so I could tell you about them. In level 2, the quality of the videos was more sophisticated. The kids had costumes at times


And there were graphics included



She also delved deeper into grammar and usage, as would be appropriate as you gain fluency,


but the main method of learning to speak in real world situations and in complete sentences remained the same. 


As I said, we did not get very far into the lessons. However, my kids, age twelve and thirteen, enjoyed watching the videos. My son, who is skimpy with his complements told me, half-way through the second video, "She is a great teacher! I already understand almost everything she is saying and I'm not even really paying attention!"

Can you get a better compliment from a middle school boy?


Excelerate SPANISH help your students to learn FAST, naturally! (Streaming)  {Excelerate SPANISH Reviews}




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Oct 17, 2019

Homeschool Review Crew: Worthy Kids

My youngest daughter, Abbie, is a bit of a bookworm. But just a bit of one, because while she does love to read, she can be a little picky about what she reads. So when she finds an author or series that she likes, she needs to read them all! That is why, even though at twelve she is beyond the upper limits of their age range, (6 to 9 years old and grades 1 to 3) she was excited to get the chance to read the next two books (Book 5 and Book 6) in the series of the Secret of the Hidden Scrolls. These books are published by WorthyKids Books and are called:
Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd's Stone (Book 5)
Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Lion's Roar (Book 6)
This is a great series that allows young children to experience the events of the Bible and absorb the truths found in Scripture in an exciting and engaging way. The stories are age appropriate yet still factual.
Abbie and I have previously read and enjoyed the first four books in the series, so we just jumped right in.
At the beginning of the series, we meet Peter and Mary, siblings who are nine and ten years old, respectively. They are staying with their Uncle Solomon while their parents are away for a month. 
Uncle Solomon is an archaeologist with a house full of amazing treasures that he willingly allows his young guests to examine. But then he shows them the most amazing artifact of all... the Scrolls. 
These Scrolls take the children back through time and allow them to experience Biblical events. In the first book, they witness Creation, then in the second they meet Noah. In the third book, the kids experience the plagues in Egypt and in the fourth book, they march around the city of Jericho with Joshua and his army.
Now, in book five, The Shepherd's Stone, Mary and Peter find adventure again. Because of an accident, they discover a map of the house with a room they didn't even know existed! As Uncle Solomon tells them stories of King Josiah and the first king of Israel, the roar of the lion calls them back in time once again. 
They find themselves in a pasture with a shepherd boy named David who trusts God to help him protect his sheep from bears and wolves. He encourages Peter to trust God, too, when Peter must face his fears to help David and a lamb. 
Then Michael (the angel) shows up with a scroll and rules as he does in every book. The children must solve the riddle of the scroll without breaking the three rules or they are stuck in the past. 
They travel with David to the battlefield where the Israelites are fighting the Philistines and they watch the dreadful meeting with Goliath. Once again they encounter Satan and defeat his evil plans with God's truth. Fear not! God is bigger than any problem!


In book six, The Lion's Roar, the children find themselves in a ziggurat ancient Babylon. They run right into the High Priest of the idol Marduk. He tries to force them to bow to the fake god, but they refuse. He threatens them with the dungeons but Michael shows up and rescues them. He gives them the usual rules of solving the scroll.

Then they meet Hannah, a young Israelite captive of King Nebuchadnezzer who works in the Hanging Gardens and also happens to be Shadrach's granddaughter.

After several adventures and narrow escapes from the High Priest, the children learn of a plot against Shadrach's friend, Daniel who is also a governor. God saves Daniel from the lions and the children solve the scroll: God is in control!

We love these simple but powerful stories. They are full of excitement and danger but also overflowing with God's power and protection. The children always learn an important truth that reveals God's character to them.

The tales are well written and engaging. They definitely keep us coming back for more! We highly recommend them for your early readers!

And we hope you will enter this giveaway for a set of the entire series: including book seven which will be released soon! Click on the graphic below to enter!




Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Shepherd's Stone (Book 5) & The Lion's Roar (Book 6) {WorthyKids Books Reviews}


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Oct 16, 2019

Homeschool Review Crew: Brain Blox

We have another fun product to review! I would have passed this one by, but my teenager who is hoping to be some sort of builder/designer/constructor when he grows up asked for me to let him check them out. So here is our review of Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks from Brain Blox



Our enormous stack of blocks came with a beautiful bag to store them in. 



This is a sturdy, bright red, cloth bag with plenty of room for all of the blocks.




It has a drawstring closure that doubles as a handle to carry the bag around. 





We were also given a booklet full of creative suggestions and ideas on what to build. We promptly lost this booklet. But that's okay! Because on the Brain Blox website are links to a PDF booklet with ideas: plants! furniture! boats! And even some two dimensional ideas like a flower.

Free play with blocks is always fun for kids of all ages. But Brain Blox offers a plethora of educational uses for their planks. 
  • use your markers to turn the planks into characters for your stories... this is Art and Literature and Storytelling!
  • use the planks to make the alphabet for Phonics
  • solve brain puzzles (and then create your own) for Math and Logic
  • build famous buildings or scenes from History
  • design architectural models or robots for STEM

The first person to use the Planks was the little one year old that we babysit. As you can tell, she was thrilled to be our reviewer!





She likes to stack them. She likes to knock over whatever the other kids build. She likes to carry one around all over the house. But mostly, she likes to taste them.

My thirteen year old, the one who originally asked to do the review, spent the most time just playing around with the planks. He enjoyed figuring out things to build on his own.


Complicated things...


I wanted to use the Building Planks in my high school World History class, but it never really worked out. So I just assigned my two middle school students from that class to build the Parthenon. Because they enjoy that kind of thing.




It seemed like it would be complicated, and they were intimidated when I first asked them to do it. But after they had freaked out a little bit, I showed them the video that I found in the Brain Blox Youtube collection and they were able to quickly and easily recreate the famous building from Ancient Greece. 






Ta da! The Parthenon! And it really only took them a few minutes and couple of stressful incidents where they were afraid it was going to topple over. Thankfully, Daniel has a steady hand and a calm, thoughtful method of realigning his pillars. 





All in all, we have had a lot of fun playing with these planks! They are sturdy, versatile, and truly fun for all ages. We strongly recommend them, not just for play, but for a variety of educational enjoyment in your home and your school. 

But don't just take our word for it! Check out the other Crew reviews and see what they had to say about Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks from Brain Blox


Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks {Brain Blox Reviews}



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Sep 16, 2019

Goalie Girl

In her next to last year of playing soccer, Kaytie decided to do something new! She is learning to play keeper. Her first game she gave up zero goals!!! Here's to a great season!


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